What is a subwoofer?

A subwoofer is a loudspeaker whose main purpose is to produce low-pitched audio frequencies, which we call bass. They produce sound waves of frequency ranging between 20-80 Hz. Subwoofers are also called subs or woofers for short.

Subwoofers are made of one or two woofers mounted in an enclosure that is commonly made of wood. The wood has to be able to resist deformation while withstanding air pressure that is produced by the subwoofer during operation.

Subwoofers have come a long way since they were invented back in the 1960s. In today’s world, subwoofers are an important part of sound production, and are used in places like nightclubs, concerts, personal home theatres and cars.

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Parts of a subwoofer

Subwoofers use speaker drivers that normally range between 8 to 20 inches in diameter. However, there are prototype subwoofers that use drivers up to 60 inches in diameter.

subwoofer cross-section
Above is an image showing a simple cross-section of a subwoofer

Below are the parts that make up a subwoofer.

1) Woofer Cone, Surround Assembly and Dust Dome: This part supplies the subwoofer with bass energy. The surround assembly will cradle the front portion of the cone, so that there is no movement. While the dust dome deters any particles from getting into the voice coil area.

2) Spider: The spider surrounds the neck of the cone, and the front portion of the voice coil. This part of the subwoofer is responsible for returning the cone and voice coil to its original positions, once amplified power has moved through it.

3) Frame: The frame houses the speaker structure. You could compare this portion to the frame of a car. The way the frame is built will affect the performance of the subwoofer.

4) Voice Coil: The voice coil is a coil of wire that is formed around a cylinder, and is connected to the neck of the cone. It’s responsible for converting the current, which is produced by the amplifier. As a result, a mechanical force is presented, and causes the cone to move.

5) Motor Top Plate: This is a steel plate, which helps focus the sound from the magnet through the voice coil.

6) Front Panel Display and Controls: This portion of the subwoofer allows you to control the power. You will need to have an amplifier in order for the controls to work.

7) Magnet: Magnetized material, which controls the magnetic field that communicates the current from the voice coil to the cone.

8) Motor Back Plate: A steel plate that completes the magnetic circuit. It helps control the magnetic field through the voice coil.

9) Cabinet: This is the outermost part of the subwoofer, and its main job is to conceal all the internal parts. It will also deter sound from going back through the subwoofer driver, and this will stop interference with radiating sound.

10) Brace: Helps keep the cabinet stable. Most high-quality subwoofers will include a brace.

11) Lining: The cabinet needs to act as an air volume, so it will be lined with material such as Dacron or fiberglass.

12 Power Amplifier: Most subwoofers will come equipped with an amplifier; this will help you equalize the outcome. This is needed to pair your subwoofer with your sound system.

Types of Subwoofers

Powered subwoofer: a powered subwoofer is also known as an active subwoofer. This is a subwoofer that is self-contained and has line level inputs and outputs, an amplifier and volume control panel.

Passive subwoofer: a passive subwoofer works with an external amplifier, kind of like a loudspeaker would. The subwoofers use power to decrease low-frequency sounds. Therefore, the receiver/amplifier has to have enough power to handle the bass that the subwoofer will produce. Otherwise, the energy supply will be drained from your receiver/amplifier.

Subwoofer Pros and Cons

Like with any product, there are both pros and cons to owning a subwoofer. Your choice of subwoofer could also determine the overall experience you have with them. This is something that you need to keep in mind.

The main purpose of a subwoofer is to increase your sound systems range, bass, clarity and volume. The addition of amplified power and low-frequency will allow you to reach high levels of volume. There will be no need to reproduce low frequencies when using a subwoofer.

You will find more clarity in the midrange, as the cone will not be continuously moving to keep up with the bass. A subwoofer can make all the difference when using a small speaker. Your small speaker will produce big speaker volumes with the addition of a subwoofer. Therefore, the sound will be more precise.

Now on to the bad side of subwoofers. It can greatly affect your sound system’s playback ability. This could be due to a poor quality subwoofer, set up not being complete, or it may be designed to care for theatre sound verses musical sound.

There are various types of subwoofers, which offer different types of boxes. These include sealed box, ported, bandpass and aperiodic. Here are some of the pros and cons of each.

a) Sealed Box:

Pros: This type of box produces a smooth bass line, so you will get an even flow of music. Sealed box woofers have a tendency to have better low-frequency ability when compared to others. You will get transition from one note to the next, which is quick and clear.

Cons: These types of boxes require more power because they lack in efficiency. They do not produce the volume levels that other boxes can. You can easily damage your subwoofer, because this box will not let heat escape. You will be more aware of any distortion in the signal, as it will present in the upper bass note.

b) Ported Box

Pros: The end result with this box is better, because the port adds more boom. The port will mimic a speaker, which will give you more sound. Plus, this box has a better low frequency when compared to a sealed box. The air flow can get some circulation, which will allow frequencies to produce a better boom. This box will allow you to play the speaker for longer periods of time.

Cons: These boxes can be tricky to adjust with some speakers. The design has also caused distortion within the speaker. Heat does not have a chance to spread out evenly when the speaker is played long and hard. This box does not cushion the speaker, which can cause issues. Typically, these boxes are larger in size.

c) Bandpass

Pros: There are different sizes, which can help you choose which suits your needs the best. They have a louder sound, and will filter out any unnecessary frequencies. There is cushioned for the speaker, so there is less chance of damage. One of the best boxes for sound quality.

Cons: These boxes are not very forgiving, as they do not hear speaker distortion, and cannot prevent the speaker itself from distorting. When distortion becomes an issue, there is no fixing it. Plus, these types of boxes tend to be speaker specific.

d) Aperiodic

Pros: If you are looking for sound quality, then you need to go with an Aperiodic box. It provides the best output, and gives a smooth sound. It is powerful and loud, and will not cause harm to the speakers. This box allows the heat to disperse evenly, and it cradles the speaker efficiently. There is no easy distortion with this box, and it can sometimes be smaller than a sealed box.

Cons: It is unforgiving until tuned, which can be a problem if you do not know how to properly tune it. It does not have any type of programming, which can help you tune this box. Tuning affects the air pressure, and the change in altitude will affect the sound quality. These types of boxes are pricey.

Different Sizes of Subwoofers

Subwoofers come in various shapes and sizes. Understanding the different sizes will help you make the best decision on which subwoofers to purchase. The size of your subwoofer will matter. There are various options, which includes 8, 10, 12 and 15. I will explain each in detail so that you get a better sense of what they can do.

8 Inch Subwoofers

You will find 8-inch subwoofers in car sound systems. They are the smallest woofer available, but they provide outstanding bass. You will even feel a bit of rumble as your music plays throughout your car. Plus, you will not have to give up any space with this small woofer. With the cone being small and lightweight, it becomes easy for the magnet to move the assembly. This will give you accurate bass.

10 Inch Subwoofers

You will find 10-inch subwoofers in small cars. They are known for their compact size and are responsive. They will not reach the low frequencies that 12-inch woofers do, but they provide immediate results. These types of subwoofers are great for rock, country and metal. 10 inch woofers are loud, and provide a clear bass sound.

12 Inch Subwoofers

12-inch subwoofers are the most commonly used woofers. They are the perfect mix of accuracy and volume. These subwoofers have the ability to reach low notes, without using extreme amounts of power. You can get an amazing bass sound that is precise. If you want a punchy sound with adequate boom, then you will want to go with a 12-inch woofer.

15 Inch Subwoofers

Since these woofers have a large cone, they have the ability to produce superior low frequencies when compared to other sizes. You will find that the bass note is more prominent with 15-inch woofers, and are the number one choice for those who love a bass sound. There is always good with the bad, and that rings true with these large subwoofers. The cone is large and has a lot of weight to it, the sound quality is not that great. However, this does not affect a boomy sound. Great choice for rap, R&B and techno.

How to Choose a Subwoofer

There are many factors to consider when shopping for the right subwoofer. You want to keep in mind the type, and what you will be using the subwoofer for. This will help you come up with the best sounding results. A subwoofer is a sound unit that has the ability to produce low frequencies. This is important when wanting amazing sound quality.

Here are some of the things you want to consider when shopping for a subwoofer.

Power: Subwoofers that have built in amplifiers are more powerful. It gives you more option to control how the power is used, as well. Also, keep in mind that the larger the driver, the deeper the base. On average, individuals tend to lean towards subwoofers that have 10 to 12-inch cones.

Cone Mount: A single cone subwoofer can be mounted in two ways, down firing or front firing. Since the cone moves back and forth to produce sound waves, the way they are mounted could make a difference. You will find down firing cones mounted on the bottom of the subwoofer cabinet, while front firing cones will be on the side of the cabinet. Typically, cone mounting is a matter of personal choice.

Casing: The way your subwoofer is encased will make a difference in its sound quality. The build of the case will affect the way the subwoofer functions and the results it produces. Acoustic suspension is where the woofers are inside of a box, and produce a base response. The sound that is produced by this type of enclosure is precise and clear. Base reflex casings have a port, which makes the foundation bigger and more extended. The port basically allows some of the power produced by the woofer to come out. These enclosures are better on power, but less accurate.

Varies uses about Subwoofers

Subwoofers improve the way you hear the sound, and there are many different ways you can utilize them. I’d like to spend some time telling you about the various ways you can use a subwoofer to improve the sounds in your life.

Car Subwoofer

Of course, we have all experienced the teenager going down the road with killer bass blaring from his or her car. It’s so true, a subwoofer can transform your listening experience, and get you pumped up for traveling down the road. Best of all, when you put a subwoofer in your car, you will be able to experience bass like you never have before. Your subwoofer will rattle your windows, and you will feel the pounding in your chest.

Home theater Subwoofer

When wanting to improve the way you experience your home theater, you will need to invest in a quality subwoofer. The sound that is produced will be clean and crisp. It will make you feel like you are actually sitting in the movie theater. This is an experience that only a subwoofer can provide.

Studio Subwoofers

If music is a part of your life, then you understand the importance of studio subwoofers. These are used when recording to ensure that the artist produces the purest sound possible for their tracks. A subwoofer can amplify and intensify the way a music recording is done.

Cinema Subwoofers

You want to visit the cinema for multiple reasons, but one main reason is to receive an amazing viewing experience of a film. Subwoofers will help ensure that the sound is coordinated with the film, and gives you a viewing experience that is pleasing and exciting. Nothing is like intensifying a moment during an action packed film, and subwoofers are used to produce maximum results for a cinema audience.

DJ Subwoofers

Dancing is something that is felt, and when the DJ uses subwoofers, the music will move right through you. Subwoofers will allow a DJ to get that extreme bass sound, and produce music that is nothing but a pleasurable beat.

Subwoofer Brands

Like anything else, the market is flooded with subwoofer brands. However, they are not all created equal, so you will want to buy from top brands that offer quality subwoofers. Some of these brands include Polk Audio, Sony, Yamaha, BIC America, SONOS, JL Audio, Rockford Fosgate, Alpine, Kicker, Mtx, Pioneer, Rockford, Re Audio, Orion Electronics, Kenwood Corporation, Infinity, Cerwin-Vega, Skar Audio, Polk Audio and Earthquake.